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There’s even an app for geo-political threats

Jacques Thibault can barely contain his enthusiasm, and though yes, he’s the president and CEO of database management firm, MagnaTech, you quickly get the sense his fervour is not an act. After all, he readily admits that the company’s staple has been a “rather dull-sounding product that one would never expect,” one that’s “not flashy like mobile technology.” Still, unused ticket management has been its “bread and butter” for a long time.

But then about a couple of years ago, they developed SafeToGo, the fastest growing part of their business, and so here is why you should care. Because it’s a risk management tool, and yep, there’s an app for that. Say the company sends you off to a conference in New Orleans, and there’s another Katrina, or you’ve got to head to Luanda, Angola, and there’s a military coup. Or you’ve got clients to see in Winnipeg… and there’s a military coup. (Hey, it could happen—they’ve got some really tough sea cadets there). Anyway, you’d want to know, right?

“Our system is retrieving information from half a dozen RSS feeds from government travel advisory sites,” explains Thibault. “And that’s what we call our first level information sources. The World Health Organization, tsunamis, floods, volcanic activity, that sort of thing is all automated in our system. So if there’s an earthquake off the coast of California, and there’s a tsunami warning for Anchorage, Alaska, the minute our servers sense that on the RSS feeds, they then check to see if we have any travellers going there, and they will put that zone alert on the map, and they will send warnings to the travellers and to the company that they work for.”

What about the more complicated political threats? Not so easy to offer advice for those. Thibault says the company doesn’t do interpretation, but that “as far as we’re concerned, 75 percent duty of care is the warning sent to a traveller before he leaves.” He adds that the firm “has a group of people that we’ve got working with us who actually edit news. It might be looking at CNN, saying ‘Whoa, wait a second, this explosion’s got to go in there,’ because that’s going to be freshly reported news, rather than something that the Canadian government put on its website and that’s already three days old.”

Corporate clients shell out a start-up fee of $4,500 for the system’s implementation, and “each industry has a bit of a variance in the way it is used.” And then it’s about $7 a month to register each traveller.

“Now, I look at the insurance industry and I’m saying to myself, this is a great possibility here, there’s a synergy that we can apply,” says Thibault, “because… travel insurance has been the second-highest income for the travel agency since the dawn of time. I don’t know what it has become now, but it’s certainly not as big as it used to be. But nothing has ever been done for the corporate side.

“I can see where an insurance company could approach a company and say, ‘For your business travellers, here’s the package that covers them all.’ And as part of this package, the insurance company diminishes its costs by having a tool like ours, and there’s a mutual benefit here to us offering that insurance package with our product, and for the insurance company to offer us with their product, and that’s it.”
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Copyright © 2016 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the February 2016 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine